Every year I make communications predictions early in January. This year may not be shaping up to be as exciting as, say, 2010 when the Arab Spring revealed the power of social media for everyone with a pulse. But you can bet that even though Washington DC continues to be toxic, European debt-handlers continue to dither, and Kim Jong-un continues to be opaque, nonetheless there will be surprises in 2013. So what are the trends, and what are the surprises, for 2013?
1. The US public discourse is only going to get dumber. Last year I bemoaned the ugliness of the public discourse; unfortunately, that prediction came true thanks mostly to a particularly spiteful political campaign and a very well funded PAC season. This year I confidently predict we’re going to continue our long slide into public stupidity. Why? One of the unforeseen consequences of giving everyone in the world a bullhorn, digitally speaking, is that the public discourse only rises to the lowest common denominator. It’s truly a tragedy, because we desperately need to have an intelligent conversation about, for example, guns here in the US, and we won’t get it. And people will die as a result.
2. Our ability to remember issues, people, and memes is only going to shrink. Andy Warhol famously promised everyone 15 minutes of fame a long time ago. It’s now approximately a minute and a half – the length of time you’re prepared to watch a YouTube video (see #1). How to survive in this brave new attention deficit disorder world? Two things. 1. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. Endless repetition. 2. The tease. Don’t tell people the whole story! Leave ‘em wanting more.
3. Despite the first two predictions, there will be a US communications spring. I’m going to go out on a very tendentious limb here and predict that hope will return to the US economy, the political scene, and yes, even defeated Senatorial candidate Scott Brown. The economy will start to improve faster, finally; the political scene will consume itself in self-loathing and cease to matter much any more – OK, that won’t happen, but the President and the Congress will agree on some things (immigration?) because they’ve exhausted all the other options; and, finally, Scott Brown will win his rematch. And the media will start reporting the good news almost as much as the bad. Economists will tell you that mood and atmosphere drive economic growth as much as factory orders and hiring, because the folks at the top don’t know any more than you or I, and they read the same stuff that we do and react in pretty much the same way. So improving atmospherics means an improving economy, which in turn means improving atmospherics and around we go.
4. 2013 will be the year of the woman in communications. While the men were watching football and drinking beer and cashing their unemployment checks, women have gone back to work, to school, and to running the country. This is the year that women finally begin to get proper recognition for their successes. When the dust settles from the Great 2008 Recession, we’re going to realize that the traditional roles of men and women have permanently reversed. This is the year that we begin to understand it and talk about what it means.
5. Finally, 2013 is the year that millennials triumph in the workplace conversation. They’ve been forced to learn to get along in a boomer workplace world. Some of them have even learned to tie a tie – anything to get a job. Now, as the economy bounces back (in slo-mo) they’re going to find their confidence, find their voice, and teach the boomers a thing or two.
So here’s to 2013! And always remember that authenticity, integrity, and transparency are still the most important communication rules to live by – and they matter most when they’re hardest to do. Keep it real and honest in 2013 and you’ll be able to sleep at night.